Violent Extremism Prevention Program Evaluation

ANSER Awarded Justice Department Grant to Evaluate Violent Extremism Prevention Program


Client: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice

Violent extremism in the United States is a persistent and pervasive national security threat perpetrated by individuals who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political, social, or religious goals. The shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Charleston, South Carolina as well as the Boston Marathon bombing and the recent violence at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, represent the wide range of incidents. The threat from violent extremism is associated with diverse actors, including “sovereign citizens,” white nationalists and supremacist movements, issue-based extremists, ideologically linked gangs and organized criminal networks, and Islamist extremists. These actors understand how to influence, radicalize, and recruit individuals to sustain their cause and carry out violent operations.

Youth radicalization is of particular concern to federal, state, and local government agencies, law enforcement authorities, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and communities, many of which have initiated programs to address this threat, with varying levels of success. Understanding which programs work and why, and identifying good practices and challenges within these programs, are critical data points for stakeholders and decision-makers. Therefore, analytically rigorous program evaluations are important for spreading effective, evidence-based efforts to counter violent extremism across the United States.

ANSER was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), to evaluate a program called Global Citizen Forum that addresses a range of risks to the well-being of youth, including radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism. Global Citizen Forum was developed by a Maryland-based NGO, and was implemented as a proof of concept, peer gatekeeper training for high school youth, in Montgomery County, Maryland.

ANSER partnered with two Maryland-based NGOs, to pilot this youth training in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and evaluate its performance. As part of the work funded by the grant, our team will tailor the training curriculum to the requirements of Prince George’s County, and facilitators will train youth recruited from three public high schools during a 10 week program. As the analytic lead for this research study, ANSER will design and implement the program evaluation and establish a system of measurement that assesses the overall program effectiveness as it relates to violent extremism. Leveraging a quasi-experimental design, participating youth are divided into treatment and comparison groups and will take pre- and post-training surveys to enable assessment of any potential change in training participants’ knowledge, attitude, and skills. Focus group discussions provide additional data to assess program performance. The grant team will also develop a replication and evaluation framework, including a practitioner’s guide, a program evaluation plan, and a program impact measurement scheme. This framework will facilitate systematic and structured replication and evaluation of future iterations of this program in additional localities in the United States.

With its deep understanding of the violent extremism phenomenon, expertise in rigorous scientific methods, and an operational outlook, ANSER is bridging the gap between community organizations and researchers of violent extremism prevention and government agencies.

Meet the ANSER project team whose work is funded by the National Institute of Justice grant:

Ms. Sibel McGee, Doctor of Political Science: Dr. McGee serves as the principal investigator for this NIJ research study. She has 18 years of experience in designing complex studies and analyses of public policy issues and complex socio-technical problems as well as program evaluations in homeland security, national security, and public safety. She has supported a wide range of public-sector clients including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the Naval Postgraduate School, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Justice as well as projects including counter-radicalization, public resilience and counterterrorism, evaluation of the combatant command gap development process, U.S. public education, Mexican cartels, disaster risk reduction, and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Dr. McGee’s academic training particularly emphasized identity issues, politics of culture, comparative politics, international relations and security, and use of quantitative and systems methodologies in social sciences.

Ms. Peggy McCarthy: Ms. McCarthy serves as the principal analyst for this NIJ research study. She has more than 25 years of experience providing analytic support to clients across a wide variety of subject matter, including homeland and national security, humanitarian operations, and international affairs. Ms. McCarthy’s analytic work has focused on decision-support activities, including research, knowledge management and information technology requirements development, trend analysis, policy analysis, process development, program evaluation, and facilitation. She has been the lead analyst for studies on topics including antiterrorism, regional U.S. nonproliferation efforts, countries in transition from war to peace, international humanitarian operations, and emergency response.

Mr. Michael Burnham: Mr. Burnham supports the project as a subject matter expert on violent extremism and assists evaluation design efforts. He is a member of the Talent Development Program and has worked on projects ranging from modeling terrorist activity to infrastructure resilience. Before joining ANSER, he graduated from Georgetown University with a Master of Science degree in security studies and worked on the Terrorist Ideology Project at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Besides his expertise in sub-state violence, he has a bachelor’s degree in economics and training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Mr. Conrad Smith: Mr. Smith serves as the subject matter expert in focus group design and social services analyst for this NIJ study. He joined ANSER through its Talent Development Program, a corporate initiative that recruited young, exceptional analysts and supported their professional growth through structured training and development. Since joining ANSER, he has supported projects for the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the State Department, and the National Institute of Justice. He has a background in and a Master of Science degree in social work, giving him a wealth of experience in evaluating human services and facilitating qualitative analysis. He has expertise in designing and implementing focus groups, surveys, interviews, workshops, program analysis, and new social services programs for the government at the local and federal levels.